Remembering Kepler

Yesterday I was listening to This American Life.  I have not finished listening to the episode because one of the first thing Ira Glass said was, “…it involves two scientists, one you have definitely heard of, Galileo, the other you may not know, you may just vaguely recall, he is one of the iconic figures of early astronomy, Johannes Kepler…”

That was all I heard before I paused the show, and ran to find Joey and ask if he thought that a large population of people who were unaware of Kepler’s contributions to astronomy and physics actually exists.  Joey agreed with Ira, that many people might not know Kepler, and even if they recognized his name, they might not recall what he did.  It seems I live in a special, magical world where conversations about Johannes Kepler, Tycho Brahe, Fermat, and other great thinkers are almost as common as conversations about the TV show we are watching (Once Upon a Time), or the YouTube video we are obsessed with (Gangnam Style).

I am deeply saddened by the idea that a person who contributed so much to our understanding of physics and astronomy is not better remembered.  So, at least in my small corner of the internet, I hope to correct the situation.

Here is what I remember of Kepler. Johannes Kepler was a German (although Germany was not yet a unified country) astronomer and mathematician who was born in the latter half of the 16th century.  He was a contemporary with Tycho Brahe and Galileo Galilei.  Kepler was also an astrologer, and he looked for a higher meaning or divine structure to the organization of the solar system.  Kepler developed a model of the solar system based on the Platonic solids.  This work led to a correspondence with Tycho Brahe, and eventually the two men worked together.  Brahe had much more accurate data about the position of the planets, based on his meticulous observations.  Brahe advised Kepler, and with this support and further observations of the orbit of Mars, Kepler devised his first law of planetary motion: The orbits of the planets are ellipses, with the sun at one of the foci (pardon the paraphrase, I am doing this from memory).

Kepler also developed two other planetary laws (you will have to check out the wiki article for the details of these.  They are more math-y, and I cannot recite them from memory).  Kepler’s three laws of planetary motion are still understood to be correct.  Kepler’s laws of planetary motion were later explained and supported by Isaac Newton’s laws of motion and theory of [universal] gravity.

Kepler developed a theory about lunar motion, and was able to measure lunar eclipses.

Kepler also worked with optics.  He was interested in understanding the strange light and shadows surrounding eclipses, and would up studying atmospheric refraction, as well as the optics of the human eye.  Kepler corresponded with Galileo, and set out to describe how the convex and concave lenses worked together to create Galileo’s telescope.  Kepler later created his own variant of the telescope which has higher magnification than Galileo’s.

Well, that is what I remember about Kepler.  Given the premise that many people do not know Kepler, I am guessing I did not learn about him in school.  My thought is that my association with people who are interested in math and physics have exposed me to this information about Kepler.  Tycho Brahe is my favorite astronomer (please tell me other people have favorite astronomers), and I know that I gained some of my knowledge about Kepler through reading about Brahe.  I know no one who knows me is shocked to discover that my memory has held onto random information that drifted through my environment.

What I have written here is based on my recollections.  I have checked my work against the interwebs, and it seems my memory was pretty good, although I missed much of the more nuanced bits of the math involved.  If you are interested in reading more about Johannes Kepler, check out the wikipedia article about him.  It is quite thorough, and has a great list of references and sources.

Smile when it hurts

Several weeks ago Billy and I began attending Body Pump classes at Gold’s Gym.  A couple of our teachers mentioned that they enjoyed having me in class because I smiled all the time.  One of the teachers even noted that I seemed to smile more during the harder parts of the workout.

After hearing these observations, I began thinking about why I smiled during Body Pump classes.  The most obvious reason is that I enjoy the class, which has upbeat pop music and movements matched to the beat of the songs.  There is a large group of people participating, and an instructor shouting instructions and motivation throughout.  All of the above are things that make my workout experience more convivial.  But it occurred to me that there is another reason I smile when my workout gets tough.

I swam competitively throughout much of my growing up, including my first two years of high school.  During the first few weeks of school each year, we did not swim during our workouts – we had what we called dry land training.  Running, pull-ups, bear-crawling up the stadium steps, sit-ups, push-ups, any crazy exercise you can imagine that doesn’t involve water… basically torture.

The coach who oversaw these parent and school sanctioned torture sessions was a man named Bill Thomas.  I am smiling as I type his name.  Coach Thomas loved to have us go through an obstacle course which we alternately called the Tour de Force, Tour de Torture, or Tour de Thomas.  I actually cannot recollect if it had any official name, or maybe those were the official names!  At any rate, Coach Thomas relished making us swing from the monkey bars, do pull-ups, inverted push-ups, and probably a lot of other exercises that I have blocked from my mind.

Here is the thing.  We complained at the time, and I am complaining now, but the truth is, it was excellent training, and I am absolutely certain that it made me stronger and ultimately a better swimmer.  Frankly if Coach Thomas had continued to be in charge of my exercise regimen beyond high school, I would not need Weight Watchers or Body Pump now, because I would be completely fit already!

So back to the smiling.  Coach Thomas would assign additional exercises if you looked too pained while you completed any task he had set for you.  I actually trained myself to smile when he looked my way, so he would not get the idea that I needed anymore sit-ups with the medicine ball, or whatever.  Basically, I taught myself to smile when I had exercised to the point of hurting.  It seems that I learned the lesson so well that I am still smiling when it hurts twenty years later.

Coach Thomas, thank you for teaching me the value of grinning through the pain, and pushing myself to accomplish more than I thought I could.  This lesson has served me well in the gym and in life.

The Physics of a Yarn Stash

So a few days ago, Stephanie Pearl-McPhee (aka The Yarn Harlot) posted about the troubles that knitters might encounter when packing for a trip (pretty much it boils down to not enough yarn, or incorrect tools for working with the yarn you have).  There are two obvious solutions: carry huge volumes of knitting related items with you at all times or purchase new knitting items while traveling.  I engage in both of these behaviors.  The latter often leads to the increase in the volume of the yarn stash.  One of the comments on Stephanie’s blog was extremely amusing to me, and I just had to re-post it.  It seemed to me the perfect union of knitting geek and “traditional” geek sensibilities.

The string theory involved with calculating the mass of your stash can be boiled down to – you must maintain either the volume or weight, which ever is greater or the universe will become unbalanced. More complicated calculations come into play when adult children move out and free up space, creating a vacuum that causes the stash to expand.
As a result, yarn stashes can only grow and never truly decrease. So the expanding yarn stash is not truly the fault of the knitter but is simply the equalizing of the universe.

-Posted by: kim at July 13, 2012 10:54 AM in response to Applied Experience on the Yarn Harlot’s blog

Kim’s comment put me in mind of an XKCD comic, entitled Depth.  For no other reason than it also makes a passing reference to string theory (or at least to  Brian Greene, its champion) who is depicted as a knitter in the comic.

Hope you enjoyed these two tidbits as much as I did.

The Place of Etherlimits

Ever since my impromptu post the other night, I have been considering how I want Etherlimits to fit into my constellation of social media. I have accounts on Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, Foursquare, LinkedIn, and Instagram.

I have been working at consistently reading the information that flows to me from these outlets. Although I do post to each of them on occasion, especially while I am traveling, I have never felt that I am very good at distilling my thoughts down to 140 characters. I am not sure I have anything to say that would be that interesting to others… so why do I hang onto Etherlimits? If I don’t have enough to fill up 140 characters, what vanity makes me feel that people would want to read paragraphs of information?

Well, I am Episcopalian, and, as such, I tend to like tradition. Don’t worry, I have detected the irony in the idea that my BLOG is somehow a “tradition”. Joey started Etherlimits just after he graduated from The University of Texas at Austin in 2003. Joey created Etherlimits as a place for us to post and archive pictures from our newly acquired digital camera – before Flickr (2004) or Instagram (2010) were an option. Although blogs were certainly a ‘thing’ by 2003, not that many of our friends or family had blogs. I think that Kathlyne was the only person we knew who had a blog back in the early 2000s.

Etherlimits is nine years old, and in the computer age, that is ancient. I feel pretty good about its longevity. Neil Gaiman’s blog turned ten last year… He got the jump on us by a couple of years, but he is Neil Gaiman, so I am cool with that.

Our posts to Etherlimits in the first couple of years were mostly pictures and stories of our travels. We were both traveling frequently for work at that time. Our families could keep up with us by looking at Etherlimits.

By 2007 it seemed like all our friends were writing blogs! In late 2007, Joey and I got Flickr accounts, and began posting most of our pictures there, which made Etherlimits a bit redundant. I began experimenting with using Etherlimits less for just photos and more as a blog. I posted semi-regularly through mid-2011. Then the insanity of the CTMS Renewal struck home, and I disappeared from my life for almost a year! I feel like I have been in a daze for ages. I cannot remember large parts of the end of 2011. I am usually the person in my family that remembers all the events, dates, who was there, etc. Right now Joey is reminding me of events that took place since June of 2011. This is unprecedented in our marriage.

So what conclusions have I come to with all of this rambling? I do know that I want to keep Etherlimits (it seems ill-advised to throw away something that has been serving me well for nearly a decade). I do NOT want to post pictures on both Flickr AND Etherlimits. My current decision is to post to Etherlimits and link to photos and sets of photos on Flickr.  I reserve the right to change my mind later.

Maybe people will read what I write, and maybe not. If people don’t care about what I am writing, there is a big internet out there, and they can find something else to read.  I am going to try not worry about the fact that perhaps there is no need for me to write, and that maybe no one is interested.

As someone who loves history, and laments the decline of letter writing, I am championing my blog as historical record. As the last year has taught me, my brain will, on occasion, have difficulty holding onto the details of my life. Writing it down in the first place will probably help me remember, and if I totally forget, I can come back and read my own crazy writing, and be reminded that I am surrounded by family and friends who love me. Perhaps some anthropologist will find this blog and somehow figure out how to interpret the data. Who knows, Etherlimits might be in a museum some day.  We all have dreams.

New poster helps me meet my deadline

New poster for my office

Joey found this poster, and thought I might like to have it for my office. I really love it, and am bummed that I will be out of town, and so will not get to spend time in my office for a whole week! It was good encouragement today. I had a really big deadline for work this week, and I am taking off work tomorrow, so I had to fit everything in today! I managed it, in the end.

Elanor portrait

Tomorrow morning early I am off to Chicago to meet up with Laura, and see her sing.

While I was getting ready to take the photo of the poster, Elanor came and sat next to me. KatyDog used to cross her paws like this, and recently Elanor has started. She looked so cute, I had to take a picture.

10 Year Anniversary

2011 is the tenth year that I have been with my company. I started working as a temp for my current company in January 2001. I was hired on as a full time employee on 09 April 2001. So my official anniversary is in a couple more weeks, but my team celebrated a little early.

My friend Amy made a slide show with pictures of me, and quotes from my colleagues about me. My manager had flowers delivered, 10 irises, one for each year. The iris color is almost the same as my company’s logo color. My team sent a box of cupcakes – they even knew to order yellow cake with chocolate frosting. The cupcake delivery guy took a picture of Joey when he made the delivery!

Employees who reach ten years at my company can shop from a list of service award gifts. I ordered a purse – no big surprise there!

It is odd to think about having been at the company so long, especially when I thought I was just going on a temp job! I have had ten managers, nine desk locations (cube and office), and nine titles over the years. I have had the pleasure of working with some really wonderful people. I met people who started out as colleagues, and have come to be treasured friends. While I am sometimes frustrated with individual situations, overall, I am glad I found my company. I have developed many new skills, traveled the world, and found a career that I had never even imagined existed.

No, you cannot log into your own blog

Back in at the end of 2010 Joey did a bunch of work to get Etherlimits transferred to the latest version of WordPress.  The day he finished, I posted to share that news with the world.  I was so excited!  The update was done just in time for the new year, and I was thinking how awesome it was that I could start the new year with a blank page, so to speak.

Etherlimits had other ideas.  I could not log in.  I could visit the public side of Etherlimits, but when I went to the log in screen and entered my user name and password the screen would just refresh.  It did not even say that I had the wrong password, just blank out what I had entered and give me the blank log in screen again.

Joey worked on it for awhile.  He thought it might be Firefox.  He played with some of the code.  He changed my password.  During the time it was not working I even got a new computer (not because the blog wasn’t working, but that is another story), and I still could not log in!

Today Joey went on the war path to root out the bad code that was causing the problem.  As you can tell by the fact that I am posting, he was successful!  I am so happy to have my blog back and working!  Hopefully you will be hearing more from me now. No, for real this time.

Burke and Michele sitting in a tree…

I just got an e-mail from Burke, and I must tell the universe…  After ten years together, Burke and Michele got married on Sunday, 10 October 2010!

The opening line of his e-mail was, “Since 10/10/10 is 42 [in binary], it seemed like a good day to elope.  So we did! I *KNOW*! I was surprised, too!”

Congrats and best wishes to the newlyweds!

Off again…

Well, I was sad about not traveling much in 2009.  Turns out I got really used to having a regular schedule, and not having to worry about leaving town to plan haircuts and knitting dates, etc.

I am back in the classroom, which I love, and back on the road, which is harder than I remembered! I had back to back trips to North Carolina in January, and now I am heading back to Raleigh.  I will go to Wilmington the first week of March, and possibly stay through 19 March!

Hopefully this means lots of airline and hotel points, and some solid knitting time!  I must sign off so that I can pack for my trip tomorrow…

The Jabberwocky

jabberwocky_creatures On the last leg of our crazy back and forth to Port Arthur on Saturday, I was driving, and by the end I was really tired.

Joey was a champ at keeping me awake.  He began reading excerpts from Alice in Wonderland, and Through the Looking Glass.  This was prompted by the Cheshire Cat moon that was in the sky that night.  You know, a crescent moon, that looks like the Cheshire Cat’s crazy grin with no head or body.

Eventually we got to The Jabberwock.  Joey has this poem memorized, and as he read it, I began repeating it back to him – working to get it all memorized.  By the time we made it home, I had recited it correctly without assistance.  More importantly, I did not fall asleep while driving.

Yesterday we stopped by the Springfield/Serrins home to visit our godson on his birthday, and give him his present.  He is six years old! While we were there, I recited the poem for Debra and Rachel.  Hopefully they will vouch for the fact that I managed to say the whole thing without assistance, and very few mistakes.

I have included the poem here for anyone who is unfamiliar with it, and those who just want to read it again.  I would like to point out, that since I was driving when I memorized the poem, I did not read it at all.  In fact, other than the time I read Through the Looking Glass as a kid, typing the poem up right now is the first time I have seen it in print!  Proof, in case anyone missed this fact, that I am an auditory learner.  Joey was truly disturbed that I was able to memorize the whole thing by hearing it.  Well, turn about is fair play – I completely dumbfounded by the fact that he can remember everything he ever reads!

The Jaberwocky by Lewis Carroll

‘Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.

“Beware the Jabberwock, my son!
The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun
The frumious Bandersnatch!”

He took his vorpal sword in hand:
Long time the manxome foe he sought—
So rested he by the Tumtum tree,
And stood awhile in thought.

And as in uffish thought he stood,
The Jabberwock, with eyes of flame,
Came whiffling through the tulgey wood,
And burbled as it came!

One, two! One, two! and through and through
The vorpal blade went snicker-snack!
He left it dead, and with its head
He went galumphing back.

“And hast thou slain the Jabberwock?
Come to my arms, my beamish boy!
O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!”
He chortled in his joy.

‘Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.